Popcorn has long been considered the go-to snack to eat at the movies, sports games, and carnivals. Whether it is a gourmet popcorn flavor such as caramel or chocolate, or a more traditionally flavored with butter or salt, popcorn is always delicious. Popcorn is not only a tasty snack, but it also has an interesting bit of science behind how it pops. You may have wondered how popcorn can go from a hard kernel to a fluffy white treat. We’ve done the research for you and it’s really quite an intriguing process.
What is Popcorn?
Surprise — popcorn is a type of corn! There are actually six different types of corn, but only popcorn can pop into a munchable treat. Other types of corn are soft when they are raw, but it is not recommended to consume uncooked popcorn since it has a very hard shell. It is difficult to put an exact date on the discovery or invention of popcorn but it’s estimated to have been around and eaten by humans for 4,000 years, based on findings in a cave in New Mexico.
The Insides of a Popcorn Kernel
A popcorn kernel is made up of three basic layers. The ‘hull’ is its tough outer shell. This layer is so hard it could hurt your teeth if you try to bite into an unpopped kernel. The middle layer is where a lot of the magic of popping happens. This layer is called the ‘endosperm’ which contains mostly starch but also just the right amount of water. In the middle of each popcorn kernel is the ‘germ’, which is the seed embryo. As you could guess, this part of the kernel is how more kernels can be grown when planted.
When the popcorn kernels are heated to around 350 degrees, the water inside the ‘endosperm’ turns into steam, creating an immense amount of pressure. At a pressure level of about 300 pounds, the kernel POPS! The starch breaks out of the shell, spilling out and forming the unique, fluffy shape we know as popcorn. The popping sound that we hear happening in the microwave, kettle, or stovetop when we make popcorn is the sound of the pressure bursting the hull open. Popcorn jumps when it pops because the first little bit of starch that spills out makes a “leg” that catapults the entire popcorn piece up high into the sky. This is why popcorn must be cooked in bags in the microwave or covered when on a stovetop, in a kettle, or popcorn machine. The initial release of pressure is so strong that popcorn could go flying many feet up into the air.
In order for there to be enough pressure to pop open the kernel, there must be a certain amount of water inside the kernel. Each kernel needs about 14% of water compared to starch inside the ‘endosperm’. Otherwise, there may not be enough steam to build up the pressure that pops open the kernel, leaving you with unpopped kernels in your popcorn bag.
Since popcorn is just a type of corn that contains starch and water, plain popcorn isn’t necessarily bad for your health. Actually, popcorn is very high in fiber which can be a good thing for your digestive system.
Carla Corn Gourmet Popcorn
At Carla Corn, we make specialty, gourmet popcorn treats based on an old family recipe. We have everything from basic salted popcorn to our most popular and mouth-watering salted caramel corn. Our popcorn is made in small batches in a copper kettle, so every piece is as decadent as the next. Carla Corn can be delivered across the United States, so order some popcorn online today for you or your favorite popcorn lover!